TODAY -

Umanglai Haraoba: Traditional Institution for Local Self Governance in Manipur

Dr. Thounaojam Ruhichand *

3 Day Kanglei Haraoba Festival at Ibudhou Marongkhong Chingdrensana Pakhangba Laibung, Imphal :: June 07th 2017
Kanglei Haraoba Festival at Ibudhou Marongkhong Chingdrensana Pakhangba Laibung, Imphal in June 2017 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



Two day national seminar on Issues and challenges of local self government in Manipur 14-15 December 2018 Centre for Manipur studies, Manipur University, Canchipur

Introduction:

The Umanglai Haraoba (in short, Laiharaoba), a ritual festival or the performance of ceremonial rites to appease the Umanglai (sylvan deity), is counted as the unique contribution of Meitei to the domain of world culture. The Meitei peoples in Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Bangladesh and Myanmar also, celebrate Umanglai Haraoba.

The worlds famous Manipuri dance (Ras Lila), polo and Meitei Pung Eshei Pala (also known as Nat Sankritan which is recognized by UNESCO), etc. are the products of Umanglai culture. The ritual festival is the greatest single key to the religion, culture and history of Meitei people of Manipur. Lai Haraoba itself is a university preserving and imparting knowledge on a variety of subjects.

In short, Umanglai Haraoba is the biggest original source of all the cultures and traditions of the indigenous people i.e., the Universe of Knowledge in the Meitei society. Identity and civilization of the Meitei are reflected in this festival. It is widely helpful in the socialization and nation making process of the Meitei. It embodies the elements of common ancestry, integrity and communal harmony among the various communities residing in Manipur. Thus, it is the greatest repository of spiritual insight and wisdom of the indigenous peoples of the region.

As a matter of fact, it may be said to represent the epitome of the cultural ethos of the Meitei society, (Ratan Kumar Singh, 2001). It is a vast complex of oral literature, dance and music, ceremonial and rituals, which represent a unique pre-Hindu world-view which has remained in its aesthetic sensitivity and reveals the heart of Meitei culture, (Parrat, and Parrat, 1997).

Laiharaoba is an ancient Meitei fertility rite celebrating cosmic union between male and female principles. In later days it is enlarged to incorporate cosmological and ideological categories of the Meitei nation, assuming an intense and complicated ritual theatre structure.This festival is still a living legend in Meitei society till the dawn of Hindu Vaishnavism. It is one of the very distinct cultures and only the one in the entire world of its kind.

The only form of conservation of forest in the prehistoric and early part of recorded history of the Meitei people was the practice of worshipping local deities known as “Umanglai”, which formed the important aspect of the religious customary practice.

Umanglai Haraoba as a Traditional Institution:

Before discussing the Umanglai Haraoba as a Traditional Institution, let’s have an idea about the significance of the Umanglai Culture in Contemporary Manipuri Society. Among all the various ethnic groups that have settled in Manipur, the Meiteis are credited with having the greatest number of population. But inside the Meitei ethnic group there are two religions, e.g. Meitei Hinduism and Meitei Sanamahism.

One follows Hindu religion and the other follows indigenous Meitei religion (Sanamahi). Even if these two religious groups profess two different religions, the unique thing is that both of them worship Sanamahi deity and Umanglai with the same rites and rituals in equal measure.

The Meitei Hindus make it mandatory to preserve the South-West Corner of the house as the abode of Lainingthou Sanamahi which is considered as a sacrosanct area and every day they worship this Home deity with rituals which is same as what is practiced by the followers of Sanamahism in the same corner of the house and in the same manner.

Moreover, the said Meitei Hindus and followers of indigenous Sanamahi religion together pay obeisance as one, to the local ancestral deities (Umanglais) with awe and reverence with much merry-making. Both the members of the two religious groups in unison give financial contributions when Umanglai Haraoba or merry-making of the sylvan deities takes place for day’s to-gather in the locality. The Meitei Hindus and the Meitei Sanamahi take keen interest in such festivals and they perform it with ecstasy.

In the Umanglai Haraoba, the origin of the Meiteis, their coming and settlement on the earth, their evolution as a social group, the struggle for existence by hard labours, agricultural works and weaving for a civilized existence along with multiplication of progeny are clearly depicted through dance. To commemorate the younger generation of these things, the Lai Haraoba is performed every year in Manipur with pomp and gaiety accompanied by offerings of fruits, flowers, prayers, songs and dances down the ages.

But this should be performed under certain rules and strictures. It was greatly feared that anybody who violates these rules and practices intentionally or unintentionally will suffer and receive the scourge of God. Not only this, strict rules are observed to maintain discipline in the precincts of the Umanglai.

All those who are taking part in the Lai Haraoba as also the spectators are to observe this discipline. There are beliefs galore that if the participants fail to conform to the prescribed sites and rituals along with the rules and regulations governing the different aspects of the Lai Haraoba, misfortunes are sure to befall the village people.

Unfortunately, the change of time and emergence of modern society has brought about undesired influence into the festival and its sanctity has been at threat. Modern people are heavily influencing in transforming the festival into an entertainment festival.

This undue influence has disturbed the psychical of tradition and culture loving citizens of the society. But during the past 40/50 years it has been seen that with the march of time there has been an almost lack of enforcement of discipline in regard to such a very important aspect of the Lai Haraoba.

As a result, non-conformation of the accepted rules and standards of observance of the rites and rituals in Lai Haraoba has become very common now-a-days leading to a very unhappy trend of deterioration even to the extent of creating a complete mess. There is a tendency for the disappearance of the right kind of dress, costume, folk songs, prayer, dancing style, rites, rituals and festival materials.

Most of the social disciplines present earlier during the Laiharaoba precincts are crumbling. Many irresponsible fellows have appeared on the scene acting according to their whims in complete disregard of the pristine purities of the important facts of Lai Haraoba and in violation of the sacred practices of this great festival. It is very unfortunate to think that the Laiharaoba has been slowly reduced to a mere amusement piece or entertainment programme by inserting many items quite unconnected with it.

The purpose of the paper is to highlight the significance of Umanglai culture in the contemporary Manipuri society. Umanglai Haraoba is a ritual and religious festival consisting of fertility rites and ancestors’ worship.

It also reveals the cosmogony-theory of the creation of the Universe then the Earth;
Evolution theory of the living creatures specially human being;
Self-understanding and meditation plus the abode of the almighty lord;
School of philosophy and thoughts of Meitei community;
Publicity for the high ideals of the Meitei;
Annual conference of a Meitei village;
Training Centre for leadership of Meitei ;
Democratic ideals of Meitei;
Defence, sports and health education system of Meitei;
Integration and understanding among the villages i .e, Oneness of the village;
School of financial management;
School of social discipline and observance thereof.;
Protection of forest and environment;
School of agriculture, handloom and handicraft of Meitei;
School of oral and folk literature, dance and music;
School of the various culture of Amaiba, Amaibi and Pena player; and many more.

Thus, Umanglai Haraoba is the oldest traditional institution consisting of the different facets culture and tradition in Meitei society.

In Manipur, in the valley area, traditional institutions like the Ahalup(group of elders), Naharup (group of youth), Singlup (locality clubs), Keirup () formed the local self-government. They looked after the general administration of the village and also resolved petty disputes. The time has come to re-look, critique as well as recommend certain reforms towards a better functioning as well as understanding of these institutions.

The main objective of the present paper is to find out the roles of Umanglai Haraoba as a traditional institution for local self-governance in Manipur. The socio-cultural aspects of the ritual festival regarding its Lai Thougallup (organising committee of the Lai Haraoba) and its office bearers (Phamthou- Phamnaiba- Khullakpa, Shellungba, Keirungba, Choubon, Pakhanglakpa, Ningolakpa, Singloi, Laroi, etc.), LaigiSenkhai, Lai Potlannaba, LaiphamthouMapan (9), Sagei Piba, etc. are the main issues in the paper.

The administrative set-up and the organisational structure of Umanglai Haraoba are closely related with the political and administrative affairs of the Sanakonung (the Royal Palace of the Manipur). Lai Thougallup, organising committee of the Lai Haraoba, is a tradition of local administration under the supervision of the Sanakonung.

Before fixing the schedule of the Lai Haraoba, the Lai Thougallup of every Umanglai Laikon must inform to the concern authority of the Sanakonung and must get the official order of the schedule and the required Amaiba, Pena Asheiba, and Amaibi for the festival. There is also a tradition of exempting official duties of the Phamthou- Phamnaiba of the Sanakonung during the Lai Haraoba festival of their village.

The office bearers of the Lai Thougallup are selected under the supervision of the Sanakonung. There are also rules and regulations framed by the concern Loishang of the Royal Palace for the selection of the Phamthou-Phamnaiba and their administrative set up.

The various posts of the Lai Thougallup i.e., Phamthou-Phamnaibas are:-
- Khullakpa,
- Shellungba,
- Keirungba,
- Choubon,
- Pakhanglakpa
- Ningolakpa,
- Singloi,
- Laroi, etc.

Laigi Senkhai, collection of money or other required materials for the Lai Haraoba form each and every family of the locality, is a tradition of shinglup(locality clubs) consisting of the concepts of Annual conference of a Meitei village; Training Centre for leadership of Meitei; Democratic ideals of Meitei; Integration and understanding among the villages i .e, Oneness of the village; School of financial management, etc.

Lai Potlannaba is also a part of village administrative set up. It is an exchange of gifts during the Lai Haraoba festival among the villages and ethnic communities for integration and understanding among us. Kanglei Pibarel (the King of Manipur) is head of the SageiPibas(administrative head of a clan/sagei). This tradition of the SageiPiba is still preserved in the Umanglai culture.

The tradition of the Laiphamthou Mapan, Nine important Umanglais, is also an administrative set up for the Royal Palace introduce by NongdaLairenPakhangba and his queen Laisana. Indigenous sports meets are also organized as a part of Lai Haraoba by Ahalupand Naharup Pana, mobilised by the Pakhanglakpa and Ningolakpa.

Conclusion:

An institution should be formed under an Act like the Manipur State Umang Lai and Sanamahi Council Act (a proposed Act) to restore Lai Haraoba in its true and original form and also to keep on record the roots, stories and accompanying religious practices of this indigenous people. As a safe-guard against these blows on the pristine purity of Lai Haraoba, the institution should try its level best to protect, preserve and propagate this valuable gift of our forefathers in its original form by taking up various action programmes.

This institution would be the only one of its kind in Manipur which is working very hard for the survival of this great festival in its true self by maintaining the social codes during the religious functions around the Umanglai precincts.

The institution should also firmly believe that if the correct rites, rituals and devotional services as also the social discipline associated with Lai Haraoba are strictly observed and the merry-making of the sylvan deities are rightly performed, then our society will be peaceful, prosperous and progressive. Only then the traditional institution of Lai Haraoba for local self-governance in Manipur can be preserved.

See a full photo Galleries of Lai Haraoba here


* Dr. Thounaojam Ruhichand wrote this paper which was later published at Imphal Times
Dr. Thounaojam Ruhichand is Assistant Professor Department of Umanglai Haraoba, Manipur University of Culture
This article was posted on January 10 2019.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Violence in Manipur 2023-2024 : Timeline
  • Haats (Weekly Markets) of Guwahati
  • Shillong gears up to host Durand Cup
  • Lip care during Monsoon
  • Gaikhangam in his elements, again
  • Anti-Repression Day @ MDU #1 : Gallery
  • You are wrong, but it's okay
  • Growing call for 100-100-100 to end AIDS
  • Pelvis as the body's emotional junk drawer!
  • World Youth Skills Day & our environment
  • Insanity at its worst
  • 55 kms per day on Imphal-Jiri stretch
  • Justice Kotiswar: First among equals
  • Kang Chingba @Govindajee #2 : Gallery
  • Introducing Thang-Ta in school curriculum
  • N Kotiswar - Judge Supreme Court of India
  • Meitei Professors' Invention Patent [Upd]
  • Boeing crisis hits India, air fares to shoot up
  • Scholarship: Rs 4 crore for civil service
  • Out on the streets against extortions
  • Mandate against party-hopping
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #10
  • Bamboo Bio-toilets at Champu Kangpok
  • Decarbonisation for human survival
  • Book Release to promote physical education
  • "ST status for Meetei" @ Langmeidong
  • Condemns the Killing of CRPF Jawan
  • Rahul Ji, let us talk solution
  • Targeting Central security personnel
  • The monster outgrowing its creator
  • Aftermath of Imphal Flooding #2 : Gallery
  • World Plastic Surgery Day 2024
  • A new front of 'power politics' in Nagaland
  • 2nd Meghalaya Pineapple Fest at Delhi
  • Super 20 batch for UPSC 2025 announced
  • Why is PM not meeting Manipur leaders ?
  • Justice to displaced people
  • Imphal Art College Exhibition #1 : Gallery
  • Scholarship for Johnstone Hr Sec given
  • Will #PutPeopleFirst drive HIV response?
  • Open Letter to Amit Shah, Home Minister
  • The Power of Poppy - 39 :: Poem
  • World Population Day 2024
  • Beating of the Retreat #3 : Gallery
  • Liar's lair :: Poem
  • The Richest Man in Imphal
  • Gamcha, the Assamese Scarf
  • Meghalaya Govt launches OTT platform
  • Comprehensive Coverage in NE Telecom
  • Battered and tattered roads
  • Let there be transparency
  • Kanglei Thokpa @ Sagol Kangjei : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2024 #3: Gallery
  • Historic Premiere: 'Chilli Chicken' at Manipur
  • Effective Unified Command for Resolution
  • Music & Quiz: Drug Abuse amongst youth
  • Visionless and headless DMU
  • When is the right time & situation for PM visit
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #37: Download
  • Inspirations from Scientists of Manipur: Book
  • Manipur crisis: Treat the disease, not symptom
  • 133rd Durand Cup Trophies Flags Off
  • NEET droppers vs freshers
  • Death : Only future to look at ?
  • Mental health of displaced people
  • Aftermath of Imphal Flooding #1 : Gallery
  • When was the last time we smiled ?
  • Appeal to Stop Unbearable Monetary Demand
  • 'Oppenheimer' links with Supreme Science
  • 'Preventing from holding a press conference'
  • Travel tips during Monsoon
  • Look at it via ground reality
  • Making the 'Balak Buddhi' wiser
  • Kang Chingba @Govindajee #1 : Gallery
  • Release Ebo Mili & Stop large dams in ArP
  • Rainforests are the lungs of Earth
  • Education suffering from political interference
  • Inflated bill main vote plank, law dont cut graft
  • From the Lok Sabha to Manipur
  • Third visit of Rahul
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #9
  • International Day of Yoga #1 : Gallery
  • Lord Jagannatha's processional chariot fest
  • World Zoonoses Day 2024
  • PM 'bola' in Parliament
  • Acknowledging the stand of UNC
  • Embracing tree plantation as a new trend
  • 17th N Tombi Equestrian C'ships #2 : Gallery
  • The spirit & the creed of the Olympics
  • Kang Chingba (Rath Yatra) : Book
  • 'Economic blockade: Rumors baseless'
  • The Power of Poppy - 38 :: Poem
  • Balancing children's academic performance
  • Imphal flooded (again) [Jul 3] #2 : Gallery
  • Covid, Ngari, Yu and Loktak
  • Rural people struggling with network problem
  • English certificate courses for BA student
  • 6th July is International Day of Cooperatives
  • Clogging the waterways with plastics
  • Diverting public attention from core issues
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #2 : Gallery
  • Gateway of Assam
  • Integrating GIS & EWS for flood management
  • The Dopamine overdose
  • Free workshop on civil service exams
  • Bucket of cold water after a hot shower
  • Breaking the silence
  • Imphal flooded (again) [Jul 3] #1 : Gallery
  • Embracing 'Sharra - Kashar-ot'
  • Drug abuse & illicit trafficking in Manipur
  • Nudity being served to increase followers
  • Record high temperature
  • Bangladesh FM Hasan Mahmud's Riyadh visit
  • Indigenous call for NRC
  • Come home to the electorates
  • Meiteis must unite for survival
  • Flood advisories issued
  • State & District Control Rooms
  • Green Hydrogen for a clean environment
  • Need for an Emergency
  • Monsoons beauty
  • Calling out the indifference of Delhi
  • Questioning the silence with a roar
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #8
  • Problem & prospect of floriculture in Manipur
  • WomenLeaders India Fellowship 2024-25
  • Naga Peace Talks and Narasimha Rao
  • Arunachal Minister visits Oil Palm @Godavari
  • Clear cut stand from the Nagas
  • Crisis resolution in 100-day plan ?
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #2 : Gallery
  • Manipur: A battleground of imperial geopolitics
  • Wangkhem Suresh @ Higher Defence Course
  • Shoppers Stop's 1st Store in Dimapur
  • Stop razing rail station, divert 25k Cr to Signal
  • Has Imphal completely lost the plot ?
  • Time to take responsibility
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #3 : Gallery
  • July Calendar for Year 2024 : Tools
  • Letter to Prime Minister of India
  • International Day of Parliamentarism
  • Skill Development Course at Lumshnong
  • The Power of Poppy - 37 :: Poem
  • Radio E-pao: Manipuri Film OST (130+ song)
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #1 : Gallery
  • Multiple Openings @ JCRE Solutions
  • Our mass addiction to predicting future
  • Bonsai - A play with another aspect : Review
  • Timely diagnosis to stop misuse of medicines
  • Impactful tool- Instagram marketing strategy
  • Essence of the June 28 rally
  • Birds of the same feather
  • Scientist of Manipur: Satyendra Thoudam
  • Education and the fate of Manipur
  • Centre not mind talking to Kitovi or Alezo
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Nambol
  • Why Bangladesh urge military diplomacy
  • MoU : Assam Don Bosco Univ with Cambridge
  • Understanding beyond the coup
  • Donning the role of LoP
  • Rally @ Jiribam [June 26] : Gallery
  • Umananda Island- World smallest river island
  • Breaking the impasse
  • Fantasies of a sinister childhood
  • Program: developing women entrepreneurship
  • Microlearning is impacting talent acquisition
  • Looking for the way forward
  • The message
  • Moirangthem Robi - Mr Universe India 2022
  • Parthenium Menace in Indo-Myanmar : Book
  • Respect & recognise domestic worker
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Hiyanglam
  • One test not for India
  • Include tomatoes in your skincare routine
  • Raising ST call a notch or two higher
  • United in grief, but...
  • Panthoibi Phijol Hongba @Mandalay : Gallery
  • Open Letter to Hon'ble CM of Manipur
  • Slavery in the machine world
  • 'Either Rio regime delivers or it fails'
  • No need for NEET or NET
  • Walkathon to promote health at Guwahati
  • Paradox of arming & disarming citizens
  • Meaningless statements
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #7
  • You are king of web, then slave
  • A Groundbreaking HIV Prevention Option
  • Board of Studies at Assam Don Bosco
  • Public Services as a career choice
  • Manipur violence and state
  • Last minute cancellation
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #36: Download
  • Saraighat Bridge - An Expedition
  • Meeting with MP Dr Bimol Akoijam
  • Manipur: 11 medal (5 gold) @ Natl Taekwondo
  • Socialization and the Two "Meads"
  • The Power of Poppy - 36 :: Poem
  • Scientist of Manipur: Raghumani Ningthoujam
  • Chilli Chicken Delivers a Flavorful Punch
  • International Day of Yoga 2024
  • Antimicrobial Resistance: Top 10 health threat
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Taste vs Health
  • Fiasco of UGC-NET, NEET 2024
  • From NEET to NET: It's time to fix NTA
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #1 : Gallery
  • Ema Panthoibi Phijol Hongba at Mandalay
  • Proposed Palm Plantation behind Jiri violence?
  • 'Why Impose War on Us'
  • Why workers most affected by scorching heat?
  • Coup of 2021 not the only push factor
  • Last chance not to fall from grace
  • Ibudhou Cheng Hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Kind attention 'Your Lordship' CJ of India
  • 'Opposition-less Govt in Nagaland is rhetoric'
  • Xorai - Assam's cultural symbol
  • Natural ways to lighten dark underarms
  • Is Delhi doing the right thing ?
  • Set the priorities right
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #3 : Gallery
  • Modi's arduous journey & fate of Naga peace
  • Autism: Why fit in, when you can stand out?
  • Bloodstained Masquerade :: Poem
  • Dharamvir Singh: Forgotten hero of TV
  • What is keeping the clash going on ?
  • Warning of a coming politico-military storm
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #6
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Timeline
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Gallery
  • Are we on track to end AIDS by 2030 ?
  • 3 writers from Manipur for Sahitya Akademi
  • Manipur's traffic, parking: A big nuisance
  • Career in elderly care
  • Keeping the folks under a state of confusion
  • Nothing neat about NEET
  • Aid to relief camps @ Jiribam : Gallery
  • Gastronomy tourism in Manipur : Gallery
  • Eid-ul-Adha: Embracing sacrifice
  • Bike Rally - Sekmai to Kangla : Gallery
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #2 : Gallery
  • 2nd Annual Art Exhibition #1 : Gallery
  • Education Fair @Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #2 : Gallery
  • Scientist of Manipur: Laishram Shanta
  • Bimol Akoijam (Cong) wins Inner PC : Gallery
  • 'Ishanou' Selection @ Cannes #2: Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #3 : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #1 : Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #2 : Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #1 : Gallery
  • Licypriya meets Italy PM & Pope Francis
  • HSLC (Class X) 2024 : Full Result
  • HSLC 2024 : Important Info & Grading System
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC 2024 : Comparative Statement
  • Scientist of Manipur: Jayanta Manoharmayum
  • Scientist of Manipur: Amom Ruhikanta
  • Preserving Thang-Ta :: Rare Photos
  • Malemnganbi Laishram : Science Topper
  • Thokchom Sheityajit : Arts Topper
  • Aiena Naorem : Commerce Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Science Topper
  • HSE 2024 : Subject Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : District Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : Candidates with Highest Marks
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Science Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Arts Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Commerce Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Arts Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Commerce Topper
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing : Full Book
  • A ferocious hailstorm @Imphal : Gallery
  • Scientists of Manipur : Ngangkham Nimai
  • GHOST of PEACE :: Download Booklet
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD